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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds boaters to slow down and look out for manatees

Posted at 10:56 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 15:07:47-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds anyone on the water to slow down and look out for manatees while boating in Florida this spring.

FWC says as water temperatures warm, manatees naturally disperse from their winter habitats, traveling to other areas of the state and beyond.

Manatees are leaving their winter refuges and are more likely to be in rivers, canals and nearshore waters. Florida boaters are also enjoying the season, so it is crucial to stay alert and avoid manatees while traveling through Florida’s waterways.

From April 1 through Nov. 15, seasonal manatee zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas to prevent manatees in their summer habitats from being injured or killed by motorboats or personal watercrafts.

FWC says boat strikes continue to be a major threat to Florida manatees.

In 2020, FWC and partners rescued 29 manatees injured from watercraft collisions, and more died because of watercraft impacts.

Manatees can be difficult to detect when they are underwater, so it is important for operators of boats and personal watercrafts to be vigilant.

· Wear polarized sunglasses to help spot manatees.

  • Avoid boating in shallow areas to prevent damaging seagrass and to avoid resting and grazing manatees.
  • Look for large circles on the water, also known as manatee footprints, indicating the presence of a manatee below.
  • Look for a snout sticking up out of the water.
  • Follow posted manatee zones while boating.
  • Physically helping a stranded manatee may cause it more harm. Instead, report injured, distressed, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or by dialing #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone so trained responders can assist.

Resources for boaters, educators and other interested members of the public are available here.